My friend Cassandra, a coach for female business owners, recently asked her blog readers if they were sharing their unique message with the world. Her post spoke to me so strongly that I wanted to copy the whole thing and paste it over here, but I decided instead to pay homage and start a related discussion.
Cassandra admits to having some difficulty staying in the space where she fully claims, declares and shares who she is with the world (her insightful words, not mine). Anyone else out there with her…and me? I fully admit to having limiting beliefs, and I’ve been working on fixing that. I am happy to say I have fewer now than I did years ago and that I now recognize areas where more work is needed — big step for someone who used to believe life was just happening to her, right? Who knows what else I have to uncover, however. That’s ok, life is a process of self-evolution and, as long as I’m on this earth, I’m on a journey. Everything need not be figured out today.
We all have inklings of who we want to be and what we want to do even if the little voice in our heads can be hard to hear at times or the message fleeting, or if there’s a disconnect between our ideal and our current reality. So, why is it that we have trouble hearing the message or allow ourselves to be led from our true paths? What is so pervasive about fear or uncertainty? And what can we do about it? Anyone have tips, tricks or thoughts to share?
So, before I sign off today, a little inspiration, Cassandra-style, for us all:
Faith and Focus
It is time to trust my Soul, trust in the process, and know that my inevitable success is already on its way. I am ready to harness the power of focus.
I claim it.
I believe in it.
I am open to receive it.
— Cassandra Rae
In part one of this post, I shared some general observations about Ghana and compared it to other places I’ve visited. Now, I’m going to share my personal memories of Ghana, the 20 things that I’ll always look back on as key to my experience there. First, a big thank you to Global Mamas staff and volunteers, without whom my experience would never have been complete. It was great meeting you and I look forward to staying in touch. Now, on to the moments (and a few things) my time in Ghana will be best remembered for:
20. Daily cold showers before bed. Water on — quick rinse — water off — soap up and shampoo — water on — quick rinse — water off: two minutes.
19. Dueling roosters outside my window at 3:30am, every morning.
18. The interesting mix of music at our local “spot” (aka bar) each night: opera, Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, Bob Marley and, of course, Ghanaian hip life.
17. Delicious food: Fan Yogo on hot days and during tro tro rides; shrimp curry at Aylos Bay; fresh bofrut (fried dough balls) from a nice lady by the side of the road; peanut brittle, hard-boiled eggs with pepe and plantain chips from people’s heads; and the most decadent fried egg and laughing-cow-cheese sandwich on the planet.
16. The commute along the coast to and from work each day, either when enjoying a beautiful sunset or when packed in like sardines.
15. Talking about why Ghanaians love Obama with GM staffer George.
14. Talking to village women in Edumafa and getting a firsthand understanding of some major cultural differences between Americans and Ghanaians.
13. Being the only Obruni on the tro tro, and sharing a tiny Daewoo hatchback with seven other people, during my first trip to Edumafa.
12. Making and eating delicious fufu and light soup, red red, and palava with Alice and Eana during our cooking class.
11. Taking batik class with Meredith and Mary, and learning that many Ghanaians believe vacationers publish all of their photos. Who knew we all shoot for National Geographic?
10. Doing a fashion shoot with Global Mamas staff and volunteers around Cape Coast and on the beach outside the castle.
9. Photographing Global Mamas seamstresses and getting an impromptu tour of the real Cape Coast and Moree Junction with George. Thanks, Eana, for inviting me!
8. Dining each night at Eli’s Spot in Elmina: delicious salads, egg stew, fufu, palava, and great conversation.
7. Spending my last Sunday in Ghana at the Elmina Beach Resort pool, reading, relaxing and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else… and, let’s not forget, watching a large group of Ghanaian men swim and roughhouse in their boxers. You have it on good authority, ladies, Ghanaian men are hot!
6. Starting my volunteer experience with a relaxing weekend in one of the most beautiful places I saw: Lake Volta near the Adomi Bridge.
5. Watching the sky brighten over Africa from 35,000 feet.
4. Sitting alone on a pier at Lake Volta as dawn broke, watching a local woman canoe by while singing a gospel song.
3. Dancing in a Cape Coast music store to hip life with Meredith, and getting serenaded to 4×4’s “Bigbuga” by GM staffer Kennedy.
2. Riding three-up on a motorbike driven by a teenage driver, on unpaved roads, without helmets.
1. The warm, helpful spirit of the Ghanaians I encountered during my independent travels: from the kind lady who coordinated with the tro tro mate on my behalf; to the Mankessim junction coordinator who led me from the wrong station to the right station to catch my shared taxi to Edumafa; to the bus fare taker who told me to get back on the bus after its last stop in Accra, and then took me closer to my destination, hailed a taxi for me, negotiated my fare and gave me his phone number so I could let him know I arrived safely. What amazing people!
That’s all, folks,
I’m back! Ok, I’ve been back from Ghana for a little while, but I caught a cold during my two LONG flights home so I’ve been cuddled up and hiding out with hubby. Now I’m back in action, answering emails, working on albums and yes, posting more photos from Ghana.
Several people have told me they want to “hear about my trip” but until now, I’ve been at a loss as to what to say. How do I describe, in a few words, a four-week trip during which I was working and living like a local in a country like nothing I’d experienced before? Oh sure, there were parallels to my prior travels. The weather in Ghana reminded me of Florida. The economic disparity reminded me of St Lucia: huge, gated homes or resorts situated next to shacks without water or electricity.
Ghana is a land of interesting juxtapositions. As just one example, it sits along the world’s second-largest ocean but lacks an adequate water supply (desalination plants are expensive, after all). Shortly after I arrived, I compiled a list of my random observations and, to my surprise, they’ve held up, so here they are for you:
- Ghana is greener than I’d expected. Of course, the rainy season just ended. Later in the dry season (January-March), I hear it will be browner and drier.
- There is a lot of smoke in the air. Smoke is the first thing I noticed upon de-planing in Accra. They burn trash here, so I see a fire on most days.
- People — both men and women — can carry an amazing quantity of goods on their heads and they rarely drop anything. I have seen people carrying all of the following at one time or another: a four-foot-wide platter with family dinner; a 3ft wide x 4ft tall bag of bottles; hundreds of belts strapped together on the way to market; and a variety of food items for sale. Yep, that’s right, you can buy lunch right off someone’s head. I’ve had plantain chips, hard-boiled eggs with pepe sauce, meat pies, bofrut (fried dough balls), peanut brittle (better than ours), water sachets and fan ice (frozen treats) this way. Below, a cloth merchant in Edumafa.
- Animals are everywhere. Just like in Key West, FL, chickens are free range, and so are goats, sheep and all other livestock. Animals here are generally much smaller than we’re used to. Cats look perpetually like kittens, dogs are small- to medium-sized, goats are knee-high, etc.
- People hang out on the street at all times of day. Children wander and play. There’s a general feeling of safety, as a result.
- There are huge ditches on either side of the road, some taller than me. They serve a variety of purposes: People throw trash in them, urinate in them… If you’re not careful, you can fall down in one and get covered in all kinds of surprises (I know someone to whom this happened — fortunately not me!).
- When driving, people tailgate, wait until the last minute to slam on their brakes, honk a lot and make additional lanes when necessary. If you’re calm and just trust that all will be well, it is.
- Ghanaians are devoutly religious, mainly Christian in the south and Muslim in the north. They also generally have a great sense of humor and irreverence about it, however, naming their businesses things like God Gives Electronics, Jesus Loves Cocktails and In God We Trust Marble Sellers (all true business names).
- Funerals are more noteworthy and larger celebrations than weddings. These multi-day celebrations have music, dancing, and everyone with any remote connection to the deceased expects to be invited. And the caskets are something to behold: gold-plating, disco-ball mirrored sides and Cadillac styling. Below, funeral announcements posted for all to see:
A funeral weekend starts on Thursday or Friday as local women bring gifts for the family. Celebrants generally wear black and red:
Some of the women get down to the band’s accompaniment:
- Ghanaians don’t have a lot of greens in their diet. Typical meals consist of beans and plantains; light soup with a starch (ground cassava and plantain in the case of fufu); or rice with sauce. Below, my fondly remembered fufu in light soup. You eat it by grabbing some fufu, making a thumb print in the dough-like substance, filling the valley with soup and swallowing. Yes, you dip your fingers in hot soup!
Another of my Global Mamas volunteer assignments was to coordinate a fashion shoot for staff, volunteers and friends to model the 2010 clothing line. Here are some of my favorites from the day shoot:
On the left, a great portrait of staff members Kennedy (front), Amos and Sabina (back). Right, staffer Joyce snuggles with Adrienne, daughter of GM volunteer Ann. Adrienne was on break from her Ghana studies; although she photographs like one, she is not a supermodel in her spare time.
Staffer George, the volunteers’ go-to man and tour guide: Don’t you love the green on him? My idea.
Left, Amos works his charm on volunteer Meredith. Right, a sweet moment between volunteer Emi and one of the babies. Emi is a long-term volunteer through the Japanese equivalent of our Peace Corps and a clothing designer. She designed many of the new fashions in the 2010 catalog.
As you can see, Amos is quite the ladies man. This little one doesn’t know what hit her… Aren’t they cute together?
This little girl is so adorable I would have run off with her if her attentive mom wasn’t standing two feet away. So expressive!
As the sun started to set over Cape Coast, I pitched a quick run down to the beach for a cover attempt. We lost all the babies along the way, but most of the staff and volunteers made it. Here’s my pick for the 2010 catalog cover. Plenty of room on top for the Global Mamas logo. Can’t wait to see what the powers-that-be choose:
Kate Watson, Photographer
One of my Global Mamas volunteer assignments was to document a papermaking project in the farming and fishing village of Edumafa, Ghana. There, local women are producing note cards from pineapple leaf fibers. During my two visits to the village, which is about 1.5 to 2 hours from my home base in Cape Coast, the women had unfortunately not produced enough leaf fibers to show me the papermaking process, so instead I wandered the village and photographed whatever inspired me. Of course, a camera in a village of 1,000 can be a spectacle, and I got many requests for “snaps” from villagers. Here are some of my favorites:
During my first visit to Edumafa, I met both the former chief of the village (below) and the current chief. It is considered proper etiquette to notify the chief whenever a stranger is spending the night in the village. On the right, below, a woman makes fufu, a traditional Ghanaian dish of plantain and cassava that is often served with okra or ground nut (peanut) soup. It has the consistency of dough, but can be quite tasty.
Have a great day,